Restoring the rosters: No. 18 – Oakland

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This is part of a series of articles examining what every team’s roster would look like if given only the players it originally signed. I’m compiling the rosters, ranking them and presenting them in a countdown from Nos. 30 to 1.
No. 30 – Cincinnati
No. 29 – Kansas City
No. 28 – San Diego
No. 27 – Milwaukee
No. 26 – Baltimore
No. 25 – Chicago (AL)
No. 24 – Chicago (NL)
No. 23 – Pittsburgh
No. 22 – Detroit
No. 21 – Tampa Bay
No. 20 – New York (NL)
No. 19 – Houston
The Moneyball draft didn’t spark a revolution, and the A’s just haven’t been all that successful at bringing in new talent this decade. That said, they don’t fare badly for a team that went eight straight years without a top-15 draft pick.
Rotation
Tim Hudson
Joe Blanton
Rich Harden
Dallas Braden
Barry Zito
Bullpen
Huston Street
Andrew Bailey
Kevin Gregg
Jared Burton
Santiago Casilla
Trevor Cahill
Vin Mazzaro
Four years ago, a rotation of Hudson, Zito, Mark Mulder, Harden and Jeremy Bonderman probably would have topped anything else these rankings have to offer. I’ve written off Mulder, though, and I don’t expect a whole lot from Bonderman going forward. At least Braden and Zito look like reliable enough fourth starters behind a quality trio, and Cahill remains one of the AL’s most promising young starters.
The bullpen has a nice one-two punch, and Gregg isn’t so bad as a third reliever. It’s just too bad the A’s didn’t come up with the money to sign their 40th-round pick from the Moneyball draft in 2002, one Jonathan Papelbon.
Lineup
1B Nick Swisher
LF Andre Ethier
SS Miguel Tejada
RF Ryan Ludwick
3B Mark Teahen
C Kurt Suzuki
DH Jason Giambi
2B Esteban German
CF Travis Buck
Bench
OF Eric Byrnes
INF Bobby Crosby
INF Cliff Pennington
C John Baker
Unfortunately, Oakland’s impressive catching factory does only so much good here. Besides Suzuki and Baker, the team has also produced Ramon Hernandez, Gerald Laird and Miguel Olivo.
Also considered for the team was Dan Johnson, who has a case for starting over Giambi. Sadly, Eric Chavez seems like a weaker bet than Teahen going forward, though he’s another who could have been picked over Giambi.
If you don’t like Swisher in the leadoff spot, you can slot German and his .357 career OBP there and move everyone else down a spot.
As one might expect, defense is something of an issue here, since the A’s haven’t been loading up on toolsy up-the-middle players. Pennington is a nice upgrade over German defensively and should start when Hudson is on the mound, but I still think German is the better player. Buck offers below average range in center, and Byrnes might be the better option during those rare occasions when he’s 100 percent. Byrnes would definitely play over Buck against lefties.
Summary
There won’t be much Billy Beane bashing here. From 2000-07, the highest pick the A’s had in the draft was 16th, which was compensation from the Red Sox in 2002 and was used to select Swisher. The next highest was 21st. They weren’t passing over potential superstars to take safer college players; they simply never had a shot at the best the draft had to offer. Should they forgone spending $20 million on Esteban Loaiza and used some of that cash to try to find the next Tejada in the Dominican Republic? Of course. But they did fairly well with what they had, and if they hadn’t been particularly hard hit with injuries, they’d rank higher here.

Orioles sign ex-Padres reliever Dale Thayer

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Right-hander Dale Thayer and the Orioles have agreed to a minor-league contract that includes an invitation to spring training.

Thayer had a rough 2015 season for the Padres, posting a 4.06 ERA and spending time in the minors, but he was a solid part of San Diego’s bullpen from 2012-2014 with a combined 3.02 ERA and 173/50 K/BB ratio in 188 innings.

At age 35 there’s no guarantee that Thayer will look good enough to claim a spot on the Opening Day roster, but he’s got a strong chance to wind up pitching middle relief for Baltimore.

Phillies acquire Taylor Featherston from Angels

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Taylor Featherston, who was designated for assignment by the Angels last week, has been traded to the Phillies for a player to be named later or cash.

Featherston stayed in the majors with the Angels for all of last season due to being a Rule 5 pick from the Rockies organization, but the 25-year-old infielder hit just .162 in 169 plate appearances.

He’s been much better in the minors, but nothing about his track record there screams quality regular and the Phillies are likely viewing him as a defense-first bench option for now.

Keith Law: The Braves have the best farm system in baseball

Braves 2
Associated Press
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Flags fly forever! Hooray for The Process championship!

Ah, sorry. This is about as much rooting as I’ll get to do this year, so cut me some slack.

This is the week when ESPN’s Keith Law releases his prospect and farm system rankings. He kicks off his content this week with a top-to-bottom ranking of all 30 farm systems. As a rule he limits his analysis to players who are currently in the minors and who have not yet exhausted their rookie of the year eligibility. The top system: the Atlanta Braves. The bottom: the Los Angeles Angels, about whom Law says “I’ve been doing these rankings for eight years now, and this is by far the worst system I’ve ever seen.” Enjoy Mike Trout, though, you guys.

If you want to know the reasons and the rankings of everyone in between you’ll have to get an ESPN Insider subscription. Sorry, I know everyone hates to pay for content on the Internet, but Keith and others who do this kind of work put a lot of damn work into it and this is what pays their bills. I typically don’t like to pay for content myself, but I do pay for an ESPN Insider subscription. It’s worth it for Law’s work alone. And though he drives me crazy sometimes, Buster Olney’s daily column/notes thing is also worth the money over the course of the year.

Some Mets fans are not happy that Beyonce is playing at Citi Field

Beyoncé performs during halftime of the NFL Super Bowl 50 football game between the Denver Broncos and the Carolina Panthers, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2016, in Santa Clara, Calif.  (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Associated Press
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The funny thing about that “stick to sports” stuff I was going on about the other day is that, in reality, a whole lot of the people who say “stick to sports” don’t really want to just stick to sports. They’re totally cool going on about political, social or cultural stuff as long as it fits their world view. It’s not “stick to sports.” It’s “don’t talk about the social implications of sports-related stuff in ways that upset me.” If sports and culture come together in other ways, however, they’re completely fine in grinding their axe.

For example, Beyonce is playing a concert a Citi Field this summer. The show is so popular that they added a second date. The Mets’ Twitter feed just announced that tickets will go on sale for the new show soon:

A while lotta Mets fans responded to that negatively. For political/social/cultural reasons that they are willingly bringing in to a conversation about a pop singer and a baseball stadium that will double as a concert venue:

And they go on and on.

How much do you want to bet that a whole lotta these respondents would tell you to “stick to baseball” if you wanted to bring up how race affects the sport or how, if instead of Beyonce, this was announcing a Kid Rock/Ted Nugent-headlined festival and you mused whether that was a case of the Mets somehow endorsing their messages?